I am very much familiar with Taal because I grew up in San Nicolas, a small town next to Taal. Taal is the oldest town in Batangas. And although it is a third class municipality, your eyes and your palate could feast on the obvious traces of its rich cultural heritage and native dishes. If you have plans of visiting Batangas, I recommend that you drop by this town and enjoy not just the preserved Spanish colonial structures, but also the food, the intricate hand embroidery and the hand-crafted fan knife. Below are the reasons why you should visit Taal.
Taal is a heritage town
Take a trip down memory lane and visit the well-preserved 19th century Filipino-Spanish mansions. Although most of the mansions were massively restored, some original parts such as large capiz windows and ceilings were retained to replicate the original designs as close as possible. The owners of these mansions or the mansions themselves, played important roles in the Spanish revolution. Most of the mansions were used refuge of the soldiers and/or secret meeting places of the revolutionary leaders.
Heal your spirits in Taal
Hear a mass on St. Martin de Tours, the largest Catholic Cathedral in the Philipines and in Far East. This stone church has a grand transept and an elegant facade. It underwent 3 renovations though. The last one was in 2011 to repaint the interior to its original trompe l’oeil ceilings and to imitate the old bell tower that was destroyed by the 1942 earthquake.
Have a pilgrimage in Our Lady of Caysasay Church which was situated on the same spot where its patron saint, Our Lady of Caysasay was found in 1603 by a fisherman. Our Lady of Caysasay is known to be miraculous. It had its first apparition in 1611. An arch was constructed over the well in 1611 to mark its apparition. Today this well is known as Banal na Pook and the adjoining stream as Banal na Tubig, that are both believed to possesses miraculous attributes of healing up to this day.
Savour the Batangueño’s delights
Believe me, tapang Taal is the best tapa I’ve had. Tapang taal is a pork loin marinated in soy sauce, garlic and other
secret ingredients that make it really tasty. If you love the garlicky taste, then you should try as well Taal’s longganisa. Both tapang Taal and longganisa are best paired with fried rice and kapeng barako or tsokolate made from pure cacao.
The kapeng barako will surely open up your senses. Its aroma is as good as its tastes. While the thick and rich chocolate drink from tablea (chocolate balls made from pure cacao seeds) has a distinct taste that you can never find in chocolate drinks from other provinces.
What I miss also is the tawilis, a small fish that is found only in Taal lake and Zamboanga City. I love it best when grilled then squeezed with lime juice (I’m drooling now!). And oh, don’t forget to look for bonete and tiping in local bakeries. Tiping is a very thin biscuit that tastes better when dipped in kapeng barako. You might want to taste as well the sumang malagkit, sinaing na tulingan, adobo sa dilaw and maliputo.
Taal is known for its hand embroidery
Ever heard of burdang Taal? Taal is also known for its most intricate embossed hand embroidery. It is found in the craft stores on the street just accross the St. Martin de Tours . You can see the burdang Taal designs not just on barong and saya but also on tablecloths, table napkins, pillow cases and bed covers. Would you believe that I know how to do this? My grandmother taught me. I helped her embroider tablecloths in exchange for my baon in school.
Taal produces the best Balisong
As they say, “Ala eh, wag kang loloko-loko sa Batangueño kung ayaw mong mabalisong” (don’t mess around a Batangueño if you don’t want to be stabbed with a fan knife). This doesn’t hold true though because Batangueños are very friendly and peace-loving people. But because Taal, specifically Barangay Blisong, produces the best Balisong or fan knife, it was associated with Batangueños.
Image courtesy of Ona’s Batangas Blades
Balisong is Taal’s pride. It is one of the best souvenirs you can get before leaving Taal. The blades are usually made from old ball bearings, hammered and sharpened. The handles on the other hand, can be made of wood, bone, or deer and carabao horns which are hand-crafted to perfection. The shapes and sizes of Balisong varies. It can be as small as a key chain or as big as the one below, hehe. But the most popular locally is the veinte-nueve which is 29 centimeters long.
Visit Taal. Travel through time. Savour the Taal’s culinary delights. Then take home balisong and burdang Taal as pasalubongs.